Zoo celebrates pygmy hippo baby

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Winnie the three-week-old pygmy hippo stays close to mum Sirana at Bristol Zoo Gardens Winnie the three-week-old pygmy hippo stays close to mum Sirana at Bristol Zoo Gardens

Keepers are celebrating the birth of an adorable baby pygmy hippo.

The youngster, who has been named Winnie, was born at Bristol Zoo Gardens three weeks ago.

She is now enjoying the Zoo's pygmy hippo exhibit, along with mother Sirana and father Nato.

Winnie, who weighs around 5kg, spends her days sleeping, eating and swimming around the exhibit's heated pool.

Lynsey Bugg, assistant curator of mammals at Bristol Zoo, said Sirana is proving "very maternal" with her newborn.

"Winnie follows Sirana a lot," she said.

"Sirana is very protective and doesn't let her stay in deep water for too long.

"Young hippos tire easily and Sirana will quite often guide her baby into shallow water or bring her out of the pool.

"Winnie is doing brilliantly, she's putting on weight really well, she is starting to get a bit chunky.

"I think people are quite surprised when they see how small she is because mum and dad are quite big."

The pygmy hippo is threatened in the wild, where it is thought less than 2,000 survive.

In Liberia, destruction of forests surrounding the Sapo National Park by logging companies is damaging one of the few remaining strongholds for the pygmy hippo.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of an international captive breeding programme for the pygmy hippo.

"The European programme is a well-established and very successful programme and our male, Nato, is a genetically important animal; by default, so will be his offspring," Ms Bugg added.

In the wild, females usually breed once every two years.

A single youngster is born after a gestation period of about six months.

The baby weighs between 4.5 and 6.2kg and is unable to walk very far at first.

The mother conceals it in thick cover and visits to feed it.

After three months, it is able to eat vegetation.

Pygmy hippos are much smaller than the common hippopotamus, with proportionally longer legs, a smaller head, less prominent eyes, and ears more towards the side of the head.

The pygmy hippo's nose and ears can be closed underwater.

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